There is a fortress atop a hill overseeing two rivers: One natural, the other a man-made canal. The first building made there was wooden, but by 1683, the Cossacks who had conquered Siberia has grown tired of soft perimeters. They sent for Russians from the south to begin the tradition of building impenetrable stone structures from the finest masonry. They never stopped building it, for centuries. The fortress of Tobolsk — prized by Peter the Great and revered for its stark and simple beauty — became the center of its own self-sustaining security industry, around which the town and later all of Siberia would revolve. The word for the style of spiral stone structure that marks the center of the fortress is kremlin.
Anyone standing inside this kremlin’s walls in 1982 would have witnessed one of history’s greatest natural gas explosions just a few miles away. Its catalyst, wrote former US Air Force Secretary Thomas C. Reed in 2004’s At the Abyss: An Insider’s History of the Cold War, was a Trojan horse program planted by American agents in code they knew would be stolen by Soviet agents.
Though Reed’s account remains disputed by folks who like certain things to be red, but not their own faces, US officials have long feared the retribution of some red-starred ghost.
In 2005, the Department of Homeland Security commissioned Livermore National Labs to produce a kind of pre-emptive post-mortem report [PDF]. Rather than wait for a…